Schneider Aviel

Is It in the Jewish Character to Resort to Terror?

How would Jews react if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were happening in reverse?

The city of Elad after last Thursday's terrorist attack. Would Jews attack Palestinian civilians with knives, axes, machine guns or explosive belts?
The city of Elad after last Thursday's terrorist attack. Would Jews attack Palestinian civilians with knives, axes, machine guns or explosive belts? Photo: Yossi Aloni/Flash90

Let’s say that Jews live under Palestinian occupation and are fighting against what they see as foreign rule in their land. Would the Jews consider turning to terrorism in their struggle for liberation? Would this be seen as a legitimate means of driving out the Palestinian occupiers? Would Jews attack Palestinian civilians with knives, axes, machine guns or explosive belts, as seems to be the norm among Palestinians today? I stumbled upon this question recently during a discussion with my youngest son and my wife Anat.

No, I personally don’t think that as a people we would treat our enemies in such a cruel way, and especially not civilians. I think every people has its unique character, its way of thinking. There might be a number of legitimate historical reasons to take issue with the Jews. But no one can say that the Jewish people ever tried to impose their religion or way of thinking on others, like both Christianity and Islam have done. No one can accuse Jews of conquering other peoples on a whim. Nobody can accuse Jews of having persecuted people of other faiths. And no one can say that Jews have ever committed organized terror against another people.

The Palestinian culture of terror in all its variations is foreign to Jewish DNA. If Israel were really that brutal, then this would also be reflected in the Israeli defense establishment. But despite what Israel’s detractors might say, we clearly see that it is not. How many times have we seen clips of unarmed Palestinians confronting, even violently, heavily-armed Israeli soldiers and police? They know perfectly well they will not be killed. But believe me, no Palestinian would dare do such a thing in a neighboring Arab state.

This is both a good and a bad thing. Palestinians understand that Israelis are merciful compared to other Arab peoples. But on the other hand, the Palestinians see this as a weakness and regularly exploit it. Moreover, in Israel protecting life, all life, is paramount. But on the Palestinian side, people are sent to die with the promise and belief that if they kill Jews, they will be redeemed as martyrs. A cruel notion that does not exist in the Jewish mindset.

Are Israelis too merciful? Even unarmed Palestinians are not afraid of Israeli soldiers. Photo: Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90

While not all Palestinians agree, it’s the radical Islamists in their community who set the political and spiritual tone against Israel. And this is alien to the Jewish character.

Those who try to draw moral equivalence by painting Israeli soldiers as practitioners of state terrorism have no idea what they are talking about. If we were equally as cruel as our foes, the conflict would have been long over by now. If instead of Israel, Hamas had fired missiles at Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi or Bashar el Assad, the Gaza Strip would have been razed to the ground long ago.

“But fortunately they have Israel as an enemy.” This is what my Palestinian friends who want to live with us in peace tell me.

No other people has lived under foreign rule in their own homeland more than the people of Israel: during the First and Second Temples under Babylonian and Roman rule, and later under Byzantine rule until the advent of Islam. After that, Jews lived under Islamic rule, followed by the Seljuks, the Crusaders, the Mamluks, Ottoman Turks and the British as the last foreign ruler before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.

The name of the country was changed at the whim of the respective ruler. Uprisings and resistance against the Romans are inscribed in the annals of history. A final resistance against the Romans ended at the mountain fortress of Masada with the mass suicide of almost a thousand Jews. This became a symbol of the freedom of the Jewish people in their own land.

Jesus lived in the land under Roman occupation, and the core of his good news was love. Blind hatred of Romans was not part of the message. Jesus preached to his Jewish brothers and sisters in Galilee about loving one’s enemies, and this shaped my understanding of the Jewish people which we can still see expressed in Israel today.

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